Study Finds Wind Speeds Are Increasing, Which Could Boost Wind Energy

Nov 30, 2019
Originally published on November 29, 2019 1:20 pm

The world is getting windier, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers analyzed decades of weather data and determined global wind speeds have risen dramatically over the past 10 years.

The study says wind farm operators are likely to benefit from the uptick in wind speeds since faster wind means more efficient wind turbines.

Princeton University scholar Timothy Searchinger, one of the study’s authors, says researchers expect wind speed to continue to increase, he says, which has multiple positive effects.

Green energy through wind turbines will see these impacts.

"When you increase the wind speed by a little bit, you still increase the power quite a lot," he says.

The study also debunked a "clear belief" that global wind speed from 1980 on was slowing due to humans. Increased buildings, and in some places vegetation, were a source of concern for the global climate system. "This paper showed that's not the case," he says.

As a result of increasing wind speed, the average wind turbine generated roughly 17% more electricity in 2017 than it did in 2010, the study found.

What's influencing wind speed is ocean oscillations, he says, "which are different patterns of pressure and temperature and winds in different parts of the ocean that go through these sometimes irregular but recurring patterns."

To get an accurate measurement, researchers had to make a wide variety of statistical analyses based on differing biases such as height and elevation.

Now, humans can capitalize on this change for at least the next decade, he says.

"When you size wind turbines, you can size them differently to take advantage of that additional power," he says. "That’s really the key point, is that if we can predict these changing patterns 10 years in advance, we can size our turbines so that they take advantage of the maximum amount of wind that is reasonable and economical."


Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.